Libmanan: Resilience and Entrepreneurship
The Social Enterprises Development (SED) project launched last January turned into an opportunity to be back “home” to Libmanan, the birthplace of our Daddy, a poor farmer’s son whose childhood in the 1930s in barangay Begajo Sur near the Libmanan River was a spark of fire in his dream to become a “piloto” of big lantsas (passenger boats) ferrying people and goods from point to point as an economic activity. Every day he saw the passenger boats, his heart beat fast. He would tell his friends he would one day sail the waters to navigate a ship to “see the world.” Thus began his journey towards sailing big onto the vast Pacific Ocean and other continents as a dedicated Philippine Navy marine engineer, deep-sea rescue diver, and naval officer for 35 years.
In 1974, he founded a maritime school, the Mariners Polytechnic Colleges (Foundation), that, today, has branched out to three campuses in Canaman, Naga City, Camarines Sur, and Legazpi City, Albay. He instilled resilience as a critical virtue among the teaching community in molding courageous and disciplined seafarers among the youth of predominantly farming families.
Today, resilience, safety, and preparedness are the banner call for learning at Mariners regarding vulnerabilities to typhoons, earthquakes, and floodings in disaster-prone Bicol. I am glad that strengthening Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) in the school’s curriculum and community extension work, in addition to addressing climate change and the safety of life at work, is well integrated into the Social Enterprises Development (SED) project that the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) approved with a two-year grant for Mariners, Tabang Bikol Movement (TBM) and the Central Bicol State University in Agriculture (CBSUA) as key implementors.
Last week, I joined a memorable occasion of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Mariners SED CHEd and the LGU Libmanan to forge cooperation to develop agriculture-based sustainable social enterprises as an alternative livelihood for disaster survivors. The project intends to draw from the experience of TBM to help build alternative health and environment-friendly livelihoods for low-income families left distressed after a disaster had hit them.
The late Commodore Jaime C. Jimenez, Mariners’ founder, would have rejoiced had he seen the importance that the MOU -between the CHEd SED project led by Dr.Marilisa J. Ampuan for Mariners and Mayor Jesus Camara for Libmanan LGU- gave to research and development as critical players in the development of sustainable social enterprises in Libmanan as a disaster-stricken area in Camarines Sur. Wasn’t it only in 2020 that this agricultural town, known as the province’s rice basket since the Spanish period, emerged battered and submerged in a deep crisis when 90% of its 75 barangays lost millions of pesos worth of palay and other agricultural produce to Typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses that hit the province in quick succession?
Melinda Molina of the Multipurpose Cooperative in Libmanan and now ad-hoc president of the newly formed Masarap Group of SED entreps said the devastation from the past typhoons caused extreme hardship on the local communities, especially in the middle of the Pandemic. They continue to feel the impact of the losses, and the psychological effect lingers. Assistance is underway in partnership with other NGOs and government agencies like DA, DTI, and DSWD, but families struggle to sustain themselves. Melinda said the SED CHEd project was a relief and provides a timely intervention for farming families to have additional sources of income as they struggle to recover. At the same time, prices of staple foods like rice and other goods continue to soar. They participate in principles/values-based education and training seminars on SEs like mushroom and vegetable production and processing, vermiculture, organic and high-value farming, processing for fish and food, essential oils, soap and candles, and household needs that help prepare them to build, develop and manage their community-based enterprises.
Libmanan is the largest vote-rich municipality in Camarines Sur and the second largest in land area. Its 113,000 population is mostly farmers who are poor and marginalized like the rest of the country. Its rich, fertile soil and abundant water supply contributed to its role as Bicol’s rice granary. But rice production has declined with decades of environmental degradation with the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and plastic waste pollution that has already taken a toll on Libmanan River, the town’s natural source of pride. Sustainable entrepreneurship should, therefore, take notice of this human-induced vulnerability.
The MOU signing spells a commitment and a step forward to a more strategic direction for Libmanan with the Mariners-CHEd SED as long-term partners for resilience and entrepreneurship. In front of the community leaders ready to step up the SED journey, I was amused at Mayor Camara’s opening and closing words in his inspirational message: Masarap Mabuhay para sa Kabutehan! Everyone who came for the MOU signing, burst into laughter: Dr. Marilisa J. Ampuan, President of Mariners, Municipal Agriculturist, Rexie Jesalva and Municipal Councilor Jose San Buenaventura, SED Program Leader Dr. Cely Binoya and staff Pat Boneo, Lea Palmes and Carl Binoya along with the community leaders of Masarap, Mabuhay, and Kabutehan entrep groups.
The SED staff then distributed the start-up kits. What a happy way to seal a partnership!